Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8
Have you ever struggled to obey the Ten Commandments? Have you found it difficult to face up to obeying these demands that you shall not murder or lie or steal or commit adultery? Well, Paul says it is really simple. All you have to do is love. Act in love toward people and you won't hurt them. The solution to all the problems we struggle with is this one thing. Have you ever thought of what would happen in this world if people could be taught how to love — and then they did it?
The first result that occurs to me is that all the impending divorces would be happily resolved. Couples ready to split up because love has left their marriage could go back together and learn how to work it out. Furthermore, if we could teach people how to love we wouldn't fight in wars. Think of how much energy and money is being expended in keeping up this endless array of armaments simply because we can't trust people to love each other. If we could love each other, there wouldn't be any more crime. The streets of all the great cities of our land you would feel safe and secure. If there weren't any crime, you wouldn't need any prisons. All the money we spend on prisons and reformatories could be spent on something more useful. We wouldn't need any courts of law, or police. We need all these things because we are so deprived in this ability to love.
This passage is telling us that the ability to love — that and nothing less than that — is the radical force that Jesus Christ has turned loose in this world by his resurrection. Therefore it has the power to radically change the world. Paul implies that this has to start with us. If we are Christians, if we know Jesus Christ, we have the power to love. You don't have to ask for it; you've got it. If you have Christ, you can act in love, even though you are tempted not to. Therefore, Paul says: When you come up against difficult people, remember that your first obligation is to love them.
Paul says very plainly that we are to think of this as our obligation to everyone. I wonder what kind of radical things would start happening among us if we were to start living on this basis. Every day, every person we would meet, we would say to ourselves first,
I need to show some love to this person. No matter what else happens, I have an obligation to pay him that debt. I have owed money to people in my life, and I have noticed that whenever I meet people I owe money to, that is the first thing that comes into my mind. I remember the debt that I owe them, and I wonder if that is what they are thinking about too. This is what Paul says we are to do about love. We are to remember that we have an obligation to every man — to love him. This obligation is to everyone. This is designed for your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? You think immediately of the people who live on each side of you, but you can see that it really includes everyone. The people you meet in business, and in your shopping are your neighbors. Wherever you are, the people you make contact with are living right beside you and are your neighbors for that moment. The word to us is that, since we have the ability to love, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The butcher, the baker, the cadillac maker — it doesn't make any difference, they are your neighbors.
Lord Jesus, come in, be my Lord. Rule in my life, and give to me this amazing ability to love.
Do we see our calling to love our neighbor as the expression of Jesus Christ's radical love? Where can we this day begin to pay off our debt of love, trusting Him to love through us?